This week’s preschool art lesson was dominated by a delightfully sensory Process Art project: creating incredibly gorgeous marbled paper via the tried and true shaving cream + food coloring printing technique. See this post and this post for a complete tutorial, but here’s the gist: add food coloring to shaving cream, swirl it around to produce colored whirlpools, press paper to the cream and scrape off the excess to reveal striking marble designs on your paper. The kids simply loved this activity because, well, shaving cream! What’s not to love about the soft, white, fluffy, cloud foam? It’s magic for our senses.
And while I discouraged the littles from dipping their hands in and playing with the cream — nudging them to use their popsicle stick “brushes” instead of their hands and satisfy their sensory urges in a tidy way — the temptation was just too real for several of my mini artistes. We were met with some serious messiness during and after class, but in the end, the bountiful and beautiful muck simply added to the experience. And guess what? The mounds of shaving cream and food coloring that found themselves sprinkled across the tables, chairs and floor taught me something revolutionary. Shaving cream cleans like nothing else! It’s true! SHAVING CREAM is a little known cleaning superstar, and with nothing but a small dollop and a wet rag, you can clean just about anything. I got food coloring off of textured chairs, tables and smocks in just a few minutes. It was an awesome discovery — and sort of life-changing since I have to contend with multiple paint and marker messes on a daily basis.
Here’s what the finished papers look like:
Won’t these make lovely note cards or collage/paper mosaic pieces?
The shaving cream printing activity was preceded by another Process Art project — scrape painting on monogram canvases. Before beginning, I wrote each student’s initial on a canvas with painter’s tape (the “S’s” were most difficult due to all the undulation!).
Then the students selected one or two base colors, which were distributed generously on the canvases.
The kids were given styrofoam squares, and used them as their paint brushes/scrapers (any flat and hard-edged item will work — like a ruler — but this was a way to reuse the materials from the previous week’s project). Using their scrapers, they scraped away and moved around the paint on the canvas. After scraping, they added more colors, and continued the process until 5 or more layers were added and scraped away. I encouraged them to begin with cool colors and work their way to the warm colors, so they could achieve maximum vibrancy.
The kids learned about color mixing, color harmonies and layering. Some students began to place their colors on specific parts of the canvas, so as to create interesting compositional variety. The almost five-year-old responsible for the heart above did not want to scrape away the painted yellow shape. I promised her that I’d memorialize it in a photograph, and that she may reveal something worthwhile (“really cool”) underneath the heart once she scrapes it away. She eventually agreed to give in to our process, and was ultimately happy with her finished canvas. It was a great lesson about Process Art — that the journey is as much a work of art as is any tangible, take-away product.
This project also allowed us to revisit the idea of “resist” techniques, which we’ve been working with throughout our course. It was great fun and, somehow, there wasn’t too much excess paint left on the tables. Some children achieved interesting color fields, and others ended up with semi-monochrome “mother color” canvases resulting from over-mixing colors. I’ll photograph the finished canvases after the kids peel off their initial tape next week.
If you enjoy learning about childhood art education and welcome inventive projects into your repertoire, I bet you’d love reading Kitchen Table Classroom, written by a children’s art blogger who continually conceives of enriching art projects for young creatives. I’m giving her blog a shout out in this post because her tutorial on scrape painting is worth a read. Check it out here.